Whilst most of my selected trips and flights have an avgeek story or influence behind it, this one is a bit more of a pain in the wallet for me….
Airbus A319 (G-EUPO) departing Belfast City back to London Heathrow on July 6th 2021, having taken us to BHD less than an hour earlier. This is also the same plane from my last BA article on here!
I took my friend up on an eating challenge on New Years Eve 2020, and its fair to say- I lost spectacularly… My friend is also an aviation enthusiast (among other interests) and very into military aircraft, but he hasn't done much flying. He has only done 3 trips on aircraft (Virgin Atlantic 747, Ryanair 737 and BA Airbus A320) to Mexico, Dublin and Amsterdam prior to this bet, when you compare to my log which stands at 240 flights across 25 countries and 45 cities…
Belfast City Hall in the city centre, with a statue of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) observing Belfast for eternity, the flower display themed for Pride Month.
With domestic UK restrictions easing, and both of us feeling the pressure of working retail through the 2020 Pandemic, it was time I paid up. I eyed up Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Manchester, Newquay and Belfast to find Belfast City was offering a reasonable price for 2 adults, and I cashed in a BA redemption voucher from a cancelled 2020 trip. It was on!
I booked us a hotel stay the previous evening before our flight- opting to use the somewhat fancy Sheraton Hotel. A lot of the LHR hotels are not available due them being used for Quarantining Red list arrivals. This was the only one by T5 I could find available. There were others further down the Bath Road and some slightly off airport. But this was my preferred choice based on location.
I decided to go without including breakfast due to our early start and need to get to our flight on time, which saved about £15 for the two of us. The bar was open late into the night for guests to use, as well as being the host for breakfast the next day.
The room was very nice and quite well equipped for visitors. It offered the usual tea/coffee facility in room, nice amenities for the bathroom a wardrobe, safe box and hairdryer.
This hotel provided bottle water, coffees, English Breakfast tea, two herbal tea variants and lotus biscoff with a kettle
As an added bonus- some great views of aircraft departing on the North Runway by Terminal 5!
Bulgaria Air normally uses Airbus A319 on the Sofia/London route, but on occasion the Embraer ERJ shows up!
I've done many flights on BA short haul over the years, and one day these will be the normal, but for now I'll enjoy the A321-neo as a 2010's novelty!
My first sighting of a Turkish Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner! It looks majestic!
For dinner, I took my mate over to the Hard Rock Cafe in London's Hyde Park. I'm a huge Hard Rock fan (alongside Aviation) and enjoy visiting new locations and my favourite locations world wide. This Cafe is the first of the Hard Rock's where it all began back in 1971! Its a good 45-60 minute train ride on the Jubilee Line, but its worth it for a visit, highly recommend this place to anyone visiting London!!!
It was great to see the exhibits again after a long hiatus, and to enjoy the music. The food was on point as well!
This puppet of Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones) was used in the popular 1980s tv satire Spitting Image. A puppet based on then PM Margate Thatcher is on display in the Imperial War Museum's Falklands War exhibit.
So the previous day we had found that British Airways retro-jet Airbus A319 (G-EUPJ) was due to operate our LHR-BHD flight. It hadn't flown in a few days due to maintenance work. Unfortunately during the evening "Papa Juliet" was removed from FR24 and replaced with the familiar Airbus A319 G-EUPO, who had flown me in Club Europe to Edinburgh the previous week…. So close yet so far off!
So close yet so far off, we were originally due to fly on G-EUPJ, the BEA Retro-jet!
Despite the minor setback, we were still looking forward to the trip and we went to bed for a short sleep (about 4 hours) before getting up and ready to leave the hotel for Terminal 5.
After checking out, we asked about getting a taxi to the Airport, so for £14 the Sheraton provided their contracted 2018 built all-electric Jaguar car company and one of the vehicles taxied us over to the Terminal 5 building at London Heathrow, the ride and car was quite impressive!
Some Interesting facts, British Airways service to Belfast City only started in 2012 due to the merger with BMI British Midland. BA in the past had flown to Belfast International (alongside BMI) for a number of years but eventually pulled the route leaving the London Heathrow/Belfast service to BMI, who then moved to Belfast City- the current BA Shuttle destination. Following the collapse of Flybe and Aer Lingus Regional operator Stobart Air- mainline Aer Lingus and BA Cityflyer have stepped up operations across the UK mainland at Belfast City to cover the lost demand whilst a new airline Emerald Airlines sets up to take over the contract in late 2021.
We got through security very quickly as London Heathrow is still somewhat low on passenger numbers still with ongoing rule changes and lower frequencies on a number of services. Despite it being my second trip in a week, I still had a feeling of unease by seeing a deserted London Heathrow Terminal 5 airside at 06:30am, given how I used to see it during 2015 to 2019!
Whatever happened to the London Heathrow that I used to know and love???
When the gate was announced, it was A10, which for Terminal 5A means a visit to the Bus gates! Not very often do you get an opportunity to use the bus gates or get a remote boarding at LHR. My last time using this method at T5 was on my BA 777 flight to Madrid (link bellow)
Going down the elevator to the A10 Gates, we were instructed to go to the first of the gates, passing by I got a good view of an Airbus A320-neo of British Airways in between flights.
You can get some great airside pictures at the T5 A-10 gates, just as long as you like British Airways Airbus A320-family aircraft!
Despite the boarding passes still showing boarding groups, British Airways still boards from the back by rows as of the time of this flight (July 2021). We were one of the last announced, it wasn't a full flight (but still a solid load factor for current circumstances) we boarded on the third bus provided and it wasn't too crammed. Due to the BA stickers on the bus, it was pretty much impossible to get any airside shots as we drove around Terminal 5 and around onto the remote aprons up to our Airbus A319 (G-EUPO).
Hello again G-EUPO! No space in Club Europe for me this week?
We boarded the plane and took our seats in Seats 12F and 13F. Right over the wing. One benefit of being OneWorld Ruby tier is that I can get these seats for FREE 7 days before I fly on BA and usually people don't want to pay to reserve these seats, so I can grab these better legroom seats and save anywhere between £7-£20 on a European flight which doesn't sound like a lot, but it builds up on 20 flights a year, and if you're taking company!
We boarded on time and after getting the required clearances we were off taxiing towards the runway we were departing on that day. It was a quiet morning for departures, so it didn't take us long to line up and do a rolling take off, I believe it took us about 10 minutes from start of pushback to our runway line up.
The flight quickly climbed out of London towards the cruising altitude of 33,000ft. The flight from London Heathrow to Belfast is only slightly longer than the Edinburgh shuttle. But the crew got to work handing out the free water & crisps. They also sorted me and my mate out for our Speedbird Cafe orders. But this is the funky part….
Me and my friend for a laugh decided to order each others breakfast on the flight. My friend decided to order me a filtered coffee (yum!) a gluten free flapjack (it was decent) and a Ploughman's Sandwich that contained brie cheese, apple chutney, radish pieces and salad leafs… I'll let you decide how that sounds, I ate about 3/4 of the sandwich using the salted crisps as a bit of an extra. I wouldn't go out of my way to buy it if I had the choice again…
My poor mate wasn't spared by me either… I got him a sandwich (different to mine) which he found ok, but I hit him with his first experience of a Bloody Mary cocktail, and he found it very spicy and really sickening!
He didn't get a picture of his breakfast, but here's the order for those who are of a curious mind:
Laughing and jokes aside, the flight began its decent over the sea after we passed Manchester and Liverpool, we had a decent view of the Isle of Man as we flew over the rather clear day.
Whilst the weather in London was muggy and rain- the residents of Northern Ireland had a lovely summer's day for the most part as we arrived into Belfast with little cloud cover and a nice summer sky to welcome us! This was my mates first time in N.Ireland and this was my 4th visit, possibly the only location from 2020 I will visit in 2021. Always a pleasure to come to the home of my family roots!
It was odd visiting Belfast City and not seeing any Flybe Dash 8 or Aer Lingus Regional ATR aircraft as they had all gone in the 18 months since my February 2020 visit. Two BA Cityflyer ERJ-190 were present as was two of three based Airbus A320 from Aer Lingus. Ryanair had in the year since started serving Belfast City with holiday routes to Spain, Portugal and Italy. Another new face is easyJet who are currently doing a BHD-LGW service in the summer season (probably due to the rise in Domestic UK demand) and another stalwart of BHD services is KLM Cityhopper, I didn't see them on this trip, but their flights were on the board. Loganair and Eastern Airways had also taken up a selection of BHD-UK routes left by Flybe.
Gate 4 is the main British Airways gate at Belfast City for their London Heathrow shuttle, mainly as its by the Aspire Lounge- also used by Club Europe flyers. I'll review that on the return flight report, but that was the end of this amazing flight and onward for a great two day getaway into Belfast!
Going landside after the arrivals process (which was nothing) we went to a tourist service stand to get our all day bus tickets for the day and after would made a short walk over to a bridge by the train station, which also overlooks the runway to see the arriving Ryanair 737 that morning as well as our BA A319 departing to London Heathrow alongside an Airbus A320 of Aer Lingus and Eastern ATR going to Southampton!
A new airline for BHD is Ryanair (who have had a base at BFS for years) who are doing holiday flights to Spain, Italy and Portugal.
Aer Lingus A320 (EI-DVN) in the new IAG themed livery departing for London Heathrow. I will be doing an EI flight from BHD-LHR in August as part of a larger trip- stay tuned!
G-EUPO departing back to London Heathrow after dropping us off in Belfast.
British Airways- Solid service from them, the crew are still ironing out the minor teething problems with the new Speedbird Cafe. A very on time and quick flight.
London Heathrow- Same as usual, not much to say because of all my flights are mainly from there!
Belfast City- Very efficient arrival into BHD and there was no extra checks carried out, which will be great for the local economy as they rely on UK mainland visitors for this summer. They still had most of their service stands open for business in the arrivals/departure hall.